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Professional Cricketers' Association members encouraged to improve online security ahead of the 2018 season.

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With the Specsavers County Championship season under way on Friday 13 April, Yorkshire spin bowler Azeem Rafiq is encouraging fellow PCA members to protect their emails and other online accounts with two-step verification.

The 27-year-old was recently a victim of a professional hacking with him losing access of his email and other online accounts, leaving Rafiq vulnerable and at the hands of hackers.

The hacking of email accounts is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. Hackers operate from all over the world, mirror their IP addresses and are very difficult for the police to track down. That is why prevention is very much better than cure.

Two-step verification, login verification or two-factor authentication (different apps call it different things.) is the best way to guard against your account being hacked, or a hacker causing major damage if he manages to get into your emails.

Often the hacker is not targeting you because you are a professional sportsman. Hackers indiscriminately hack email addresses and will assess the vulnerability of the victim once they are in the emails.

If they can get “quick wins” by raiding credit cards, PayPal or Amazon accounts, or sometimes even ordering takeaways on Deliveroo and other online accounts then they will sometimes do so.

If they can’t steal money directly from you then they will look at other vulnerabilities that lead to threats and extortion. Taking control of your Twitter, Facebook or Instagram account by resetting the login details. Getting into your iCloud and downloading all of your photographs. Or seeking to infect the accounts of your friends by sending messages from your email.

These are all classic tactics of the hacker and something the Rafiq experienced first-hand.

“It was a pretty scary time to be honest. One evening I was sat at home and I couldn’t gain access to my Twitter account and I knew something was wrong.”

AZEEM RAFIQ

“Straight away I messaged Matt Himsworth who is a media and reputation lawyer who works with the PCA and within two minutes he had replied. Considering it was 9.30pm I was so grateful for the support he gave me for almost two hours that evening to try and get me back into my accounts.

“I kept resetting my password but right in front of my eyes they were changing it back to something that was out of my control but thanks to Matt he really did help resolve the situation.”

To protect your online accounts, the first rule should be to add the best possible security onto your email account itself. All the main webmail accounts (such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail) offer an equivalent of two-step verification. This should stop your email account being hacked in the first place.

On top of that, adding two-step to all your main social media apps: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and also to your iCloud will offer you an extra layer of security.

It varies from app to app how you do it but it is usually through the settings toolbar (which is sometimes a simple picture of a cog on apps like Snapchat and Instagram) and it is then a case of scrolling through the options (usually to a section called security / privacy), which is something the Yorkshire bowler is urging fellow PCA members to implement.

“These days everything is electronic and your whole life is on the internet. Professional hackers are experts in exploiting people who do not protect themselves."

AZEEM RAFIQ

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“Pay slips, invoices, bank details, mortgage information – you will be surprised how much information is accessible via one log-in to your emails,” said Rafiq.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through being hacked and I can’t emphasise enough how everybody should have two-step authentication switched on to all accounts. It basically means nobody can get into your account unless they have access to your phone. You can protect your apple ID, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and email accounts to add security.

“I’ve been telling all the Yorkshire lads and showing them how to do this as it’s so important.

“It only takes a few minutes to protect all your accounts and trust me, it is worth it.”

If in doubt – speak to your Personal Development Manager or PCA Communications Manager Luke Reynolds by email luke.reynolds@thepca.co.uk.

Matt Himsworth is Managing Director of Himsworths Legal. If you would like to find out more, please contact Matt on 07799 660355 or email matt@himsworthslegal.com – alternatively, you can visit their website.